This week in our Lent readings, we are looking at the theme of ‘forgiving.’ Forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian faith: Christians are people who are forgiven by God and who forgive others. Forgiveness doesn’t depend on restitution; it is a choice we make, a process that is ongoing in life, for we will always do wrong and need forgiveness and will always be wronged and need to forgive. Our reading today (Genesis 18:17-33) may seem to have little to do with forgiveness, but in fact, in this passage, we see Abraham and God in conversation about the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah. God talks of judgment for sin (necessary if life is not to descend into anarchy); Abraham pleads for forgiveness and mercy.
The intimacy of relationship which this conversation shows is striking. Abraham communicates God’s mercy back to Him, reminding Him of His character! Far from being offended by this, God seems to encourage him to go even further, as Abraham asks for mercy for any righteous people in these places. We may well find it hard to believe in God’s desire to forgive and show mercy, but Abraham shows us that he knew God well by this time. When we show mercy and forgiveness to others, we are reflecting God’s character to a world which desperately needs these things.